Galaxy Zoo: Understanding Cosmic Mergers
Starting at midnight 11/24, our new site ‘Galaxy Zoo: Understanding Cosmic Mergers’ went on-line as a new project in Galaxy Zoo. In Mergers, we are working to understand the cosmic collisions that lead to galaxy mergers. Every day we will have a new target galaxy that we need your help to model. Based on the basic input parameters that we provide, a Java applet running in your browser will simulate some possible collision scenarios. Computers don’t do a good job comparing simulations and real astronomical images, so we need your help to find out which simulations are the most similar to the real galaxy collision.
Working on Mergers will require some patience. Some of the collisions we are trying to model are rarer than others, so don’t get discouraged. In some cases, you will need to look at a few hundred images to get your first close match. Just remember, you aren’t looking for perfection. Just try to find a simulation that has some of the unusual and unique tidal features of the target galaxy. When you found something close, you might want to go further and “enhance” the image to make even a better match. The more data we have on these galactic collisions, the more we can narrow down the input parameters that caused these systems to form. You can be the most helpful by looking at a lot of images and then select the best of the best through the evaluate mode of the applet. This will happen automatically when you have selected eight possible merger images.
My graduate student Anthony Holincheck and I have been working on this project for a long time, and are very excited to see it see it launch today. We want to thank all the Zooites that participated in our beta test. Zooites rock! Of course, thanks also go out to Arfon, Chris, Lucy, Nancy, Geza, and Mark in their work in the development. Without all of your help, this project would not be possible. Our team will be adding more features in the coming weeks and months, so please stay tuned.
As I write this blog, we are T-5 hours before the full launch of our site. I cannot help but be humbled by the incredible dedication of the Zooites. With your help, we are going to model the dynamics of hundreds of galaxy collisions. This effort will help us connect the dynamics of galaxy collision to the star formation rates in galaxies. Thank you for your on-going support Galaxy Zoo!
- John Wallin – Computational Scientist/Astronomer